As Iranians prepare to go to the polls this Friday reports from inside Iran paint a picture of growing resentment aimed at what many are calling an illegitimate election. This comes as Iranians are standing up to the regime, risking life and limb as a boycott of the presidential poll is reportedly gaining steam.
On Wednesday a video doing the rounds shows an unnamed woman protesting a town hall event in Tehran. The video captured by the news website The Foreign Desk shows a woman speaking out, and taking aim at the seven presidential candidates. In the translated remarks she is seen and heard saying, “They put seven bananas in front of us, and they say take one. What’s the difference? A thief is a thief.”
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Other videos show anti-regime protests including the burning and ripping down of posters of the likely new president, Ebrahim Raisi, the head of the country’s judiciary.
Fox News communicated with a handful of Iranians with the help of one of the main exiled opposition groups, The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI.) All those interviewed did so at great risk and used pseudonyms, and are members of the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (MEK).
The MEK has long been a thorn in the side of the regime and according to one Iranian government-affiliated news site, its security apparatus is on full alert to stop the group’s actions.
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“I just wish the Iranian people were free and made all their words public, but you can see for yourself that despite all the repression, the people still showed their opposition to the election farce,” said a twenty-something medical professional who gave her name as Roya from the country’s Southwest.
“You have to believe that in this regime, there is no such thing as elections,” she said, “and that it is neither fair, nor legal, nor in accordance with the laws of the free world.”
Roya like many of the voices Fox News communicated with is upset with the Biden administration’s rush to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly called the Iran nuclear deal. “We expect Mr. Biden not to sacrifice the human rights of the Iranian people to political and fleeting deals and really any support for this regime (which) will make this dictatorial regime stronger.”
Hossein a 22-year-old MEK activist told Fox News that, “what we want from President Biden is to side with the people of Iran and acknowledge the people’s voice. The people have already showed what they want and shouted what they want on the streets.” He said that each dollar that goes into the hands of the regime, “turns into a tool for more oppression in Iran and also it goes to back up terrorism in other countries…not even a single dollar is going to be spent for the benefit for the people.”
He said the people in Iran are waking up and, “don’t want to be played anymore” and claimed this election could be a turning point. “People are talking about not voting in this election anymore…what the people want is a democratic secular government and republic.”
Hossein said COVID-19 was a prime example of how the Iranian government spends no money on the people. “That money that should have been spent on the welfare of the people and buying vaccines for the people. (It) has been spent by supporting terroristic groups in the Middle East and all around the world.” He said people at protests shout, “No Gaza, No Lebanon I live for Iran.”
“This is not an election,” Tehran resident Bagher told Fox News. “This is just the regime…installing someone for the presidency.”
Bagher states the recent lifting of sanctions by the U.S. on some Iranian officials and companies has only made the “regime more brazen and ruthless towards the people than even before.
Lisa Daftari, Editor-in-Chief of the Foreign Desk and a Middle East and counterterrorism expert. told Fox News that, “The overwhelming majority of Iranians who are eligible to vote are choosing to boycott the upcoming election. They don’t believe in voting in an election where the candidates have been selected by and are from the same ilk as the mullahs who are running the country.”
Daftari, who is not associated with the NCRI or MEK said the Biden administration’s rush back to the Iran nuclear deal shows just how out of touch they are with ordinary Iranians.
“It comes off as completely tone deaf when thousands of Iranians are bravely coming onto social media to tell us #No2IR or “No to the Islamic Republic,” which has been an extremely effective and successful social media campaign over the last few months, and then side by side you see U.S. officials hurrying back to the negotiating table to strike a meaningless appeasement deal with the regime.”
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Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert, and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank in Washington D.C told Fox News that, “Iran’s tightly managed “elections” are exercises in forcing people to incrementally settle for less. Since 2005, Khamenei has used elections to reshape the already narrow political landscape through purges and disqualifications.”
He said the 2020 elections for Iran’s parliament featured a record-low turnout and said that another low turnout “would also be a sharp rebuke of the Biden administration’s Iran policy.”
Taleblu concluded that “Indirect political engagement to relieve sanctions is the exact opposite of what should be happening. Low electoral turnout would be yet another indicator of the chasm between state and society in Iran, something which should not be ignored when formulating policy.”